The United Nations Human Rights Council said in a report issued Thursday that Israel is violating international law in the West Bank, that Israel “must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the West Bank and cease further settlement building “without preconditions.”
The UNHRC report said that Israel’s settlement policies violate article 49 of the fourth Geneva convention, which prohibits the transfer of civilian populations to occupied territory. It says the settlements are “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
These conclusions, while perhaps shocking to some who believe Israelis have rights and Palestinians have none, are nothing new or special. These are conclusions that merely reiterate the long-standing international consensus that Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and what remains of their land are criminal.
What is important about this latest report, however, it the context in which it was issued. The Palestinians were successful two months ago in obtaining “non-member observer state” status at the United Nations. This may give them the jurisdiction they previously were denied for bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The Rome statute establishes the international criminal court’s jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory,” said the UNHRC report .
It added: “Ratification of the statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims.”
Unity Dow, one of the UNHRC judges who contributed to the report, said in a statement: “The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights…The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand.”
Israel responded indignantly to the report, calling it “biased” and “counterproductive,” adding that any resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is through”direct negotiations” between the parties, a strategy that has operated under the direction of the fundamentally biased United States. The process has only resulted in more Israeli crimes and further subjugation and dispossession of Palestinians.
The United States has opposed and attempted to block Palestine’s upgraded UN status at every step, primarily in an attempt to shield Israel from legal scrutiny of its actions which are considered criminal by virtually every expert of note on the subject. America enables Israel’s crimes as a matter of policy, and it doesn’t appear that is going to change if the Palestinians are successful in bringing their case to the ICC.